Ten Hag insists Man Utd showed ‘big character’ before Fulham ‘escape’ to score winner

Jason Soutar
Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag looks dejected after a defeat.
Erik ten Hag looks dejected after a defeat.

Erik ten Hag insists his Manchester United players showed “big character” in their 2-1 home defeat to Fulham on Saturday.

Calvin Bassey opened the scoring in the second half with a thunderous strike and the Cottagers were good value for their lead.

The Red Devils got themselves back into the game thanks to a Harry Maguire goal but were beaten thanks to a last-gasp Alex Iwobi strike.

Speaking after the result, Ten Hag blamed Iwobi’s winner on how his players managed the situation but insisted they “showed big character to fight back from a goal down” and in their desire to find a winner.

“It was a throw-in [for Fulham] in the corner, we had them under pressure and we have one player in the wrong position,” Ten Hag said.

“As a team we should manage that and make sure everyone is in the right position. We let them escape and it is avoidable.

“The team showed big character to fight back, we deserved the equaliser and went for the win – we showed big personality and character. It was that mistake. Before that we went for the win and we should have taken our opportunities.”

On whether the game was too open, Ten Hag said: “We struggled with their influence and their impact on our left side. But we reacted well and how to deal with it, how to step up from the back and once we had that we got more from the game and took control to create the chances.”

United were without Luke Shaw and Rasmus Hojlund, but the Dutch manager says his squad were still strong enough to beat Fulham.

“With the squad we had today we should have won this game,” he said. “Both halves were slow starts and we should be ready from the first whistle.

“That’s a point of criticism but the team showed big character in both halves.”

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United goalscorer Maguire blamed injuries for his side’s defeat, noting that Hojlund’s absence left them lacking a “focal point” up front.

“We got hit by the injury to Rasmus, who has been big focal point for us but it is up to us to find the solutions and the areas we need to improve on,” Maguire said.

“He has been our focal point, we can play into him, he holds it up, he starts the press really well, not only that but Marcus has been playing really well on the left.

“It’s the story of our season, we’ve been injury hit – as other teams have – and we need to find a solution quick.”

Maguire added that the Red Devils showed some naivety at the end of the game.

“Overall on the balance of play we didn’t do enough in the first 60 minutes or so, we started the game not great,” he said.

“The first half was pretty even, but when you’re not playing at your best you have to do the basics right and set pieces is part of that.

“We knew they would cause us a threat from those areas and they’ve scored early in the second from what we knew – so that’s disappointing on that aspect.

“To be a goal behind, I thought our reaction was brilliant especially in the last 30 minutes and when we equalised probably only one team going to win it.

“We were probably naive in the end by throwing too many bodies forward and getting done on the counter attack.

“We’ve been on a good run of form and came into the game we were confident.”

Meanwhile, Fulham boss Marco Silva said he believes “the best team won the game”.

“It is a big win for us,” Silva said. “For sure, a great feeling for our fans, who were loud from the first to the last whistle.

“The players deserved it, clearly the best team won the game.

“We were the team which played better, created more chances and had more control of the game.

“It is a fantastic feeling for us to come here and win against a side in a good run of form. we knew we would have to pay at a high level; and that’s what we did.”

“They had two or three moments as well, they are a quality team but we controlled it very well. I’m pleased how we played at the start of the second half.

“After we scored we knew there would be a reaction. We tried to play offside for their goal but there was not the synchronisation we wanted and as they pushed, we showed the mentality which we had missed in other away games. It was a great counter and a great finish.

“The players deserve great credit because they understood the plan and executed the plan. It was an open game, we don’t change away or at home. This is our way.”

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